A Trainer Shares How to Burn Fat and Build Muscle — It's About Reps and Sets

The old, but disturbing, saying "there's more than one way to skin a cat" (sorry for the gruesome image) applies to the relationship between fitness and weight loss. There is more than one way to work out to lose weight. It's easy to get caught up with what worked for your favorite fitness influencer, what you read online, and what you see people doing in the gym. But the true objective is to figure out what works for you, your body, and your weight-loss goals.

When it comes to fitness, there are a ton of tools to help you achieve what you're looking for; you just have to find the ones that work best for you. As a personal trainer, I suggest you take the time to research fitness and nutrition programs to find the best fit, even if it seems mundane and difficult. Here's a four-week strength-training plan for beginners to see how to program a month of workouts.

Don't NOT Have a Plan

It's easy to go to the gym with the goal of losing weight but no real plan. In my opinion, that's one of the biggest mistakes you can make. It's great that you're getting in the gym, but without a plan, achieving your goals will be challenging. Instead, follow this simple structure laid out below when it comes to your strength programs if your goal is to lose weight and build lean muscle mass.

Reps and Sets For Weight Loss

If you're new to strength training, I suggest doing two to three strength sessions a week and gradually increasing the number of sessions you do as your body begins to adapt to the stimulus of lifting weights. Here's the breakdown:

  • If you've never lifted before, start with three sets of 10 reps per exercise.
  • As you become comfortable with the movements, begin to increase this to three to four sets of 12 reps.
  • If you have experience lifting weights, complete anywhere between three to five sets of eight to 15 reps.

When to Lift More

First and foremost, I recommend mastering the technique before worrying about weight. Once you've got the form down, I suggest lifting with medium to heavy weight and recording your progress to determine if you need to increase your weight. It might feel like paperwork, but this is how you will know what you need. You can mix up your strength sessions by doing a day of lighter weight and more reps (four sets of 15 squats with 10-pound dumbbells) or fewer reps and heavier weight (three sets of 10 squats with a 45-pound kettlebell).

Avoid the Plateau

I know you're probably thinking, "Why isn't there one definitive set and rep scheme?" First, I've found this range of sets and reps successful when it comes to weight loss, and second, if you don't constantly change your rep and set scheme, you'll hit a plateau. So come with a plan, and make sure that plan mixes it up. Finally, I wouldn't be doing my job if I told you that all you had to do was four sets of 12 squats in order to lose weight — you need to work with your workout to find what is challenging you and your muscles right now.

As I mentioned earlier, this rep and set formula is just a tool to kick-start your weight-loss journey. You're going to have to be consistent with your workouts and, most importantly, consistent with your nutrition in order to achieve the results you're after.